But youd have had a scarier ride the price peaked at over 4,600p in 2011 and has since fallen some way back. A large part of that will be optimism following the start of the stock market recovery after the big crunch, but then followed by fears of a Chinese slowdown and a subsequent fall in metals and minerals prices.
But that does neglect dividends. Heres what Rio Tinto has been paying out in recent years, together with a couple of forecasts:
Now, Ive always thought the Chinese slowdown thing was overdone, and the economy does seem to be growing pretty close to the governments target of 7.5% per year.
And I do think its short-sighted to evaluate a miner like Rio Tinto on short-term metrics like current commodities prices anyway the long-term demand for Rios increasing production of iron ore, aluminium, copper, and coal is assured.
And with Rio shares on a forward P/E of 10.2 for this year, dropping to 9.6 for 2015, they look cheap to me.
Income from cyclicals?
But this is about dividends, and I while a cyclical stock like Rio Tinto is perhaps not so good for those seeking regular income today and who want consistency from year to year, I reckon it might actually be a better investment for a portfolio intended to provide income in 10 or 20 years time.
The average yield over the past few years have not differed too much from the FTSE 100, but the cyclical nature means that if you buy the shares when theyre in a down spell and the P/E is low, you stand a better chance of cornering higher effective yields in the future.
If you had bought Rio Tinto shares five years ago at around 2,400p, the 3.9% and 4.3% yields forecast for this year and next would effectively get you 5.3% and 5.7% based on the price you actually paid.
And if you reinvest your dividend cash in shares, a bit of pound-cost averaging over the next couple of decades could result in a healthy income for your retirement.
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Alan Oscroft has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don’t all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.